Why Would Beowulf Be Considered a Perfect Medieval Knight?

Beowulf should be considered a perfect knightSome people think that the epic hero Beowulf should be considered a perfect knight because his attitude and adventures are comparable to the knights of the middle ages.

However, some also believe that since the whole concept of knighthood was coined long after Beowulf, he doesn’t qualify as a perfect knight.

Why would Beowulf be considered a perfect medieval knight? Discover the reasons why many scholars believe Beowulf belongs to the class of perfect knights of the middle ages.

Why Should Beowulf Be Considered a Perfect Knight of the Dark Ages?

– Beowulf Displayed Loyalty to Nobility

In literature, an ideal knight would be a man who displays loyalty to his king and willingness to lay down his life to protect royalty; this character is abundant in Beowulf.

Like the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Beowulf comes to the aid of King Hrothgar as he faced a fearsome foe. In Gawain’s case, a green knight intruded on the New Year’s celebrations of knights who had gathered at Camelot and challenged them. Their king gets up to accept the challenge but Gawain steps in to fight for his king, thus sparing the King’s life.

The same could be said of Beowulf who came to his king’s rescue after a beast called Grendel killed King Hrothgar’s men who had gathered at Heorot. When Beowulf heard of Hrothgar’s plight, he came to fight and kill Grendel on behalf of the King. According to Beowulf, he was fulfilling the pact that his father made with Hrothgar after he saved his father’s life.

However, it didn’t end there because when Grendel’s mother came to avenge the death of her son, Beowulf returned to slay her too. When the dragon terrorized the Danes, Beowulf once again came to their rescue by helping to slay the beast although it cost him his life. Beowulf was loyal to King Hrothgar to the point of death – just like a knight of the Middle Ages.

– Courageous and Brave

Beowulf displayed great courage and bravery reminiscent of the knights in the Dark Ages. Beowulf faced Grendel knowing full well that that could be his last. To further prove his courage, he decided to go against the beast without a weapon. He ended up killing the beast with his bare hands and became famous throughout Scandinavia.

When he encountered Grendel’s mother, his bravery allowed him to chase the monster to the most dangerous of places; her home. There he asked the men who came with him to stand down while he faced Grendel’s mother alone.

He fought courageously till he was almost killed until he slew the beast with a giant knife. This level of courage and bravery was akin to that displayed by the perfect knights of the Dark Period.

Even in his old age, Beowulf displayed valor as he battled the dragon that plagued his people. Beowulf, who had led his men to the lair of the dragon, commanded them to stay outside as he dueled with the monster.

Though his strength had waned by then, Beowulf fought gallantly alongside Wiglaf until he killed the dragon. Beowulf later died of the wounds suffered at the hands of the dragon and he was remembered for his fearlessness.

– Strength That Matched His Courage

Our hero possessed the strength of thirty men in one fist, according to the Old English poem. This strength helped him to win his first fight against the beast by pulling its hand from the rest of its body.

This caused Queen Wealhtheow to sing the praises of our hero and even ask him to protect her sons. He also proved his brawn when he battled strong winds and high waves as he competed in a swimming competition against his friend Breca.

Beowulf showed his braveryThough he failed to win the competition, Beowulf showed his bravery as he fought several sea monsters and defeated them. In his fight with Grendel’s mother, he had to wield a giant sword which was probably heavy and huge.

The sword given to him by his friend Unferth was no match for Grendel’s mother, so Beowulf used the giant magic sword to kill the monster. This strength was a constant feature of knights of the Dark Ages so that makes a good case for Beowulf.

His strength enabled him to overcome the dragon in his final battle as he dealt the blow that caused the death of the monster. Beowulf’s strength may have diminished by then but it was enough to end the dragon.

Beowulf’s strength was unmatched throughout Scandinavia and with this power, he kept his people safe. No wonder, his people mourned him dearly when he passed for they knew they wouldn’t find anyone like him.

– Royal Blood

Part of becoming a knight of the Dark Ages was to be of royal blood and our hero came from royal blood albeit through his mother. Beowulf’s father, Ecgtheow, was not from a royal lineage but his clan, the Waegmundings, were prominent in Scandinavia. His father honorably served his king and was known as a valiant and strong warrior.

His mother, however, came from the line of the Hrethels, a royal family that ruled Geatland. Hence, when his first cousin died, Beowulf was crowned King of Geatland and he ruled for about 50 years. After his death, he was succeeded by his kinsman Wiglaf since he did not have anyone to succeed him. Beowulf was a good king who helped keep his people safe from enemies and monsters.

Also, when he accomplished his quests, Hrogthar rewarded him with some loot which was common for knights of the Dark Ages. After his first victory, Beowulf received a breast mail, an embossed helmet, a banner, and a sword. He also received eight horses with gold bridles and an embossed ridge.

– Fought Against Evil

Knights of the medieval period were expected to fight against evil and establish good morals wherever they found themselves. Beowulf’s fight against the monsters is seen as fighting against evil and tipping the balance in favor of ‘good‘. For instance, Grendel hated revelry and happiness and would stop at nothing to establish sorrow and mourning. Thus, his face-off with Grendel is considered a battle between good and evil.

His final battle with the vicious fire-breathing dragon could also be viewed as the ultimate battle between good and evil which has been a running theme and most literary works. Beowulf’s victory over the dragon indicates that no matter how strong evil is, it will definitely kowtow to the power of ‘good’. Thus, Beowulf deserves a knighthood for all he has stood for and accomplished.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Did It Mean to Be A Knight of the Dark Ages?

One could either become a knight by birth or by achieving extraordinary military feats. Those who were born knights had parents who were either of noble blood or knights themselves. The Knight protected his master (usually a king) for 40 days per year. The king provided food, lodging, weapons, money, horses, and armor in exchange for the knight’s loyalty.

Knights who were born as royals were given to the care of foster mothers until they are seven years of age. They were then given the title of Page and then handed over to the Lord of the castle to be trained in academics and hunting. The pages also served older knights by caring for their horses, maintaining battle equipment, and packing the belongings of their masters. At 15, they have titled Squires at a consecration ceremony.

The squires must now master the seven agilities to become fully knighted. The seven agilities included swimming, dancing, fencing, the ability to use several weapons, and climbing. Once one became a knight they swore allegiance to the king and provided military service. This included defending the king and launching attacks on enemies on behalf of the king as in the case of Beowulf.


Beowulf is a perfect knightBeowulf is considered an epic poem because it has a great hero whose bravery brought relief to his lord and his subjects as a knight and a king. Here is a summary of all that we’ve read so far:

  • Beowulf deserves to be called a knight because he fulfilled the requirements to be knighted.
  • Beowulf was of noble birth because his mother was a royal from the clan of Hrethel which later qualified Beowulf as a king.
  • He displayed loyalty towards King Hrothgar by venturing on three quests in his name and he defeated the monsters.
  • He had extraordinary strength which came with extraordinary bravery that allowed him to accomplish all these tasks.
  • Beowulf fought against and protected people from evil in a bid to establish ‘good’ wherever he went.

All these factors prove that Beowulf should rightly be considered a knight of the Dark Ages. His name certainly belongs up there in the list of the best knights of the Dark Ages.

Ancient Literature (September 26, 2023) Why Would Beowulf Be Considered a Perfect Medieval Knight?. Retrieved from https://ancient-literature.com/why-would-beowulf-be-considered-a-perfect-medieval-knight/.
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